This is an expanded rewrite of Guiding Principles posted on May 27th.
Here are some of the principles, thoughts and learnings from our collective experience with art ministry projects.
- The work must be tied to the liturgy, season or holiday.
- The space inside our church is dramatically large, so when it comes to the scale of a project, you almost can’t be too assertive. Think big. Ten foot wide mobiles, eight foot wide wall hangings, eighteen foot banners are not too big for our space.
- In designing a space, keep the eye moving UP, always.
- It’s not about you.
- It’s all about you (the committee). Maintain spiritual grounding through prayer, open discussion and love for each other. This is more important than the results of your work.
Establishing a Committee for Art Ministry
When I was first formulating the idea, and when it was approved by Session, it was announced in the various church information channels, of course. But I didn’t do a “call for volunteers” which I find is rarely an effective way to gain support for a project. I did targeted recruiting; I walked up to two or three people who I knew had the necessary talent and skills and made a personal appeal for them to join. One was a fabric artist and clothing designer, and one was a mechanical engineer who could work creatively in almost any medium. Four years later, they still form the backbone of the committee.
We didn’t know at first what we would need, never having done this before. We got an initial grant from Session of $2500 for the year. We always keep an eye on cost, and we are all good shoppers, as well as recyclers. Since we buy material in bulk we shop the internet where we get the best deals. Scrounged materials (a great deal of cardboard is discarded by the company I work for) are also used. Material sources are listed in the Sources:Materials section.
- Make a schedule and keep to it. Our schedule is 7:00-9:00pm every Monday night, with additional day-long workshops added for major installations such as Advent or Lent.
- Figure that any work is going to take a lot longer than you think, from two to ten times longer.
- Brainstorm, share ideas, use scripture and the internet as resources.
- Research what other artists in this genre have done, and see what other churches are doing.
- Keep everyone busy. Our worst problem is when we have more hands than work to keep them busy.
- Keep an eye on newcomers and remember this is a training exercise. You, the experienced member, are responsible
for welcoming them and guiding them throughout the process.
- Share food. Share fellowship. Go on road trips. Be honest with each other.
- Enjoy the ride. If it’s a chore you’re not doing it right.
Who is this Manual for?
This is primarily for the members of FPCH who follow in the work of art ministry. It will make an attempt to catalog and explain and provide instruction in the workings of the structures and major installations. Perhaps it will also serve as inspiration for those in other churches who would like to start their own AM group. Hopefully it will be useful to any size church in illustrating possibilities for ministry and outlining some of the technical issues we faced and how we addressed them.
I’ll also share some of the major learnings of the AM committee from its inception in summer 2011 until the present. At this writing, summer 2015, we have been in practice for four years. Feel free to post, comment or ask questions on our blog, bibleinayearfpch.org. Or show up in person at an Art Ministry Monday night workshop if you just want to see how things work.
When I started the Art Ministry at First Presbyterian four years ago, the church was in need of healing. Perhaps it was given to us in response to that need. Since then it has attracted numerous members – young families in particular have been uniformly vocal in their support and enthusiasm for this arm of worship.
Working on the Pastor Nominating Committee gave me a unique look at the role Art Ministry played in our church’s future. Almost every worthwhile candidate we interviewed pointed to the art ministry as one of the things that attracted them to our church.
What congregants see are the installations. What we see, first, is the infrastructure. The hanging systems, the pulleys and reels, the hidden components built into walls and floor and roof, that are designed to carry and display a variety of design elements – banners, fabrics, wall mounts, sashes, mobiles, three dimensional artwork. They are designed to be changeable and adaptable to new versions and new forms being created over the years.
I have never given any thought to legacy until now. And I realize that the structures we have put in place will be in use for as long as this church stands. 50, 100 years, who knows? After we’re dead, the members of this church will be benefiting from our work.
For Pentecost this year, we went over the top. Half a dozen of us labored for days to bring this installation into being. We painted, sewed, carried, climbed, drilled, sawed. We ate pizza and took breaks with Laurel and Hardy. Most importantly, we prayed together. We are a small group, a family, not just a goal-oriented committee. We take care of each other. And our family model, just like Jesus’, is adoption.